Severly shaken after a frightening nightmare where she was stalked in a boiler room by a shadowy figure who wears a glove with knives attached to the fingers, high school student Tina Grey has her friends Nancy Thompson and Glen Lantz stay over at her house the following night when her mother takes off for a few days. During the sleepover, Tina learns that Nancy dreamt about the same frightening man the night before, and after her delinquent boyfriend Rod Lane shows up and the two of them make up for a fight they'd had before by having sex, she learns that he'd had a nightmare too. That night, when Tina falls asleep, she dreams that she's awoken and lured outside into a backalley by an eerie voice calling for. She's immediately confronted by the same man, who chases her back to the house, all the while toying with her using his supernatural abilities, and finally catches her. Rod is woken up by her screams and sees her brutally ripped apart and dragged up the wall and across the ceiling by an unseen force. Horrified, Rod escapes through the window before Nancy and Glen enter the room to find the bloody aftermath. At the police station, Nancy's father, Lt. Donald Thompson, asks her what happened, suspecting Rod to be the killer, but Nancy is adamant that he wouldn't do something like that and tells both him and her mother, Marge, about the nightmare Tina said she'd had the night before. The next day, despite not having slept at all after what happened, Nancy goes to school and runs into Rod, who says that he didn't kill Tina and that there was someone else in the room, before he's arrested and taken away. Later on in English class, Nancy falls asleep and dreams that she's lured down into the school's basement, where she ends up in the same boiler room Tina had found herself in and is chased by killer, who corners her and calls himself Freddy before closing in for the kill. Nancy burns herself on a hot pipe, waking herself up, and on her way home, sees a burn on her arm in the same spot where she had done so in her dream. After talking with Rod in the jail and learning that he dreamed about the same man she and Tina had, Nancy becomes terrified to go to sleep, and as more of her friends fall prey to the killer, and after she learns his identity when her mother reveals a dark secret that the town's parents have been hiding, she realizes that it's up her to confront him before she becomes his next victim.
|This... is God.|
The first times I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street, I hit upon something interesting: when Freddy speaks in the first three nightmare sequences, it's Robert Englund's normal voice but when he attacks Nancy when she falls asleep in the bathtub, it's now a deep, booming, demonic voice that he has for the rest of the film and the rest of the series for that matter, save for something weird going on in Nightmare 3, as we'll see when we get to that film. I thought that was strange when I first hit upon it but not too long afterward, I read that some people saw it as a sign that Freddy is becoming more powerful the more people he kills and the more intricate nightmares he creates. I like that idea and, in fact, I'll go a step further and say that it's a sign that he's becoming something far more horrible than what he used to be, that at the beginning of the film it was merely the evil spirit of Fred Krueger haunting people in their dreams but he's now becoming something that's downright demonic. That voice makes him sound much more threatening when he laughs and speaks while attacking someone and, by extension, makes those sequences less entertaining and more frightening and disturbing for the viewer. And at the end of the movie when he's filled with rage and is trying to kill Nancy any way he can, that voice makes him sound all the more like somebody you'd want to run like hell from (which is how I think he sounds throughout the entirety of the second film, as we'll get to).
|One, two, Freddy's coming for you...|
In comparison to the much larger and intricate sequences in the later movies, the nightmares in this first film are pretty simple and reflect the real world for the most part, with the only truly fantastical environment being Freddy's boiler room, which itself has a real-world counterpart that we never see. Also, it's much easier upon repeated viewings to figure when someone fell asleep, whereas in the later films, reality becomes so twisted around that you often don't know where it ends and the dream world begins. And finally, as we'll see, Freddy's influence isn't just limited to the dream world; he often causes supernatural phenomena to happen in the real world as well, giving him a feeling of omnipotence that makes him even more of a frightening entity.
A Nightmare on Elm Street has one of my personal favorite 80's horror film scores, courtesy of Charles Bernstein. The most recognizable part of the score is that melody that Bernstein created to compliment the nursery rhyme that the little girls sing and it's a tune that's both beautiful as well as eerie and foreboding. You hear it many, many times throughout the film in different variations, from instances where you just hear the soft piano melody to others where you hear a kind of far off moaning sound behind it, from an interesting version where you hear a driving beat behind it that goes, "Chh, chh, chh, bom," (that plays when Nancy walks to the jailhouse in that one dream) to a very creepy version that you hear immediately following the scene in the dream clinic. Bernstein also makes use of a lot of electronic equipment to create some really frightening pieces of music, like the low beat that goes, "Din, din, din, din" and makes a sort of vocalizing sound as well, which you hear at the very beginning (where it culminates loudly in a truly nightmarish version of the main theme) and when Nancy's last nightmare begins, the rhythmic, driving piece that you hear when Freddy first chases Nancy in the boiler room, music that sounds like an electronic version of the Psycho murder theme when Freddy pulls Glen through his bed, and the fast-paced, scary pieces when Freddy chases Tina in the second nightmare and when he gets after Nancy and chases her into her house and up into her room, with the latter being very frightening. There are a number of low, menacing bits of music, like one with a beat that kind of goes, "Bom," when Nancy is trying to call Glen, low piano music that you hear in the dream clinic, a quietly scary bit that you hear when Tina hears Freddy calling her outside of her house, and a kind of subtle, actiony piece when Nancy is setting booby traps across the house and a short, frantic one when Nancy rushes to the front door to try to help Glen. I could go on but I think I've said enough. This score is just awesome, period. As for the song Nightmare by 213 that plays over the ending credits, I've never cared that much for it. It's not horrible but it's not a song I would listen to again and again. There are plenty of better songs in the later movies.